Unsolved: 'Mr. Cruel' [Part Two] (Victoria, Australia)
The perpetrator of four heinous crimes, the serial offender known as Mr Cruel is suspected to have perhaps committed in excess of a dozen other crimes leading up to and, perhaps, since the 1987-1992 period in which his known crimes occurred.
Consistent with the profile of offenders similar to Mr Cruel, it is thought that there was very likely a graduation of offences to the rapes, abduction and eventual murder that Mr Cruel would commit during the five year period between 1987-1992. Despite this belief, the first offence that police have confirmed as having been committed by Mr Cruel is that of the 1987 rape of an 11 year old girl in Lower Plenty.
Wearing a mask, and wielding a small handgun and large hunting knife, Mr Cruel entered the Lower Plenty home at approximately 4am, removing a window pane in the home’s lounge room. Mr Cruel woke the parents of the young girl and forced them to lie on their stomachs, tying their hands and feet with a series of knots more commonly utilised by sailors and workmen intending to secure loads.
“Be quiet and don’t move or I’ll hurt someone,” Mr Cruel reportedly said to the mother and father, “All I want is money, food and clothes. How much money is in the house?”
He gagged the parents and placed surgical tape over their eyes, before locking them in their bedroom wardrobe. Mr Cruel then turned his attention to the family’s six year old son, who was also blindfolded and gagged, then promptly tied to his bed. Finally, Mr Cruel moved in on the 11 year old girl.
“What’s your name? How old are you?” Mr Cruel had asked the girl, before continuing, “Clean your teeth.”
The offender was reportedly in no great hurry with his sexual assault and rape of the girl, spending approximately two hours in the home and even taking a break from raping the 11 year old girl to eat a meal in the home’s kitchen. He had also searched the home and would steal both a box of classical vinyl records and a dark blue parka with a faux fur collar.
The 11 year old girl would also later tell police that Mr Cruel had made a phone call from the house, threatening another unknown family with violence, warning them to move their children or they would be in danger, and referring to the person on the other end of the phone as ‘bozo’.
However, a police check of the home’s telephone records discovered that, in reality, no such phone call had ever been made. Instead, the man known as Mr Cruel had deliberately manufactured the false telephone call to throw off subsequent offenders and, one imagines, further intimidate the young girl still blindfolded in another room.
“I’m going out now so count to 100 slowly, then you can free your parents,” Mr Cruel had told the girl.
December 27, 1988, over one year after the Lower Plenty attack, Mr Cruel struck again. This time, he entered a home in Ringwood, a suburb 21km (13 miles) south east of Lower Plenty.
Wearing a blue ski mask and dark blue overalls, Mr Cruel entered the home at approximately 5:45am, entering the bedroom of the home owners John and Julie Wills and placing a gun to Mr Wills’ head.
“You’re not going to be a hero are you?” Mr Cruel asked John Wills. He proceeded to force the couple to lie face down on their bed, tied them with copper wire and stole $35. Afterwards, Mr Cruel proceeded to cut the telephone cable, tying up a loose end before turning his attention to his true target.
Mr Cruel entered the bedroom where 10 year old Sharon Wills slept with her three sisters, Annette, Robyn and Linda.
“Wake up, get up,” Mr Cruel told Sharon Wills, who he spoke to by name. It is thought that the offender may have learned Sharon’s name from a newspaper article featuring the girl and her family six months earlier, following their home catching fire, however this cannot be confirmed.
Mr Cruel proceeded to lift Sharon from her bed, blindfold her and gag her with a small ball and a strip of tape. After picking up some of Sharon’s clothing, Mr Cruel departed the Ringwood home with Sharon Wills under his control.
It reportedly took John and Julie Wills 15 minutes to struggle free from their restraints, at which point they ran to their daughter’s bedroom, only to discover Sharon missing.
“You’re going to have a shower, you have to wash yourself really good,” Mr Cruel told Sharon, “Brush your teeth.”
Eighteen hours later, a woman discovered Sharon Wills in Bayswater, 6km (3.7 miles) from her home in Ringwood. The 10 year old was discovered wearing only a man’s shirt, and wrapped in green garbage bags.
“My name is Sharon Wills and I was taken from home early this morning,” the girl reportedly told the woman, “A man left me here and told me to go and ring home.”
Speaking with police, Sharon described being driven around for a while before being taken to the offender’s home, where he assaulted her. Softly spoken, Mr Cruel had given Sharon Wills a glass of milk, a Vegemite sandwich, and some lemonade. He had made her stand in a large garbage bag, pulling it up and taping it to her shoulders, before placing an additional garbage bag over her head and cutting out a small hole for her face to fit through.
Mr Cruel then drove Sharon to Bayswater, lifting her over a fence and placing her in the grounds of Bayswater High School, instructing her to walk across the oval towards a home with its lights on. He drove away, leaving Sharon Wills alone, until she was later found by the woman nearby.
Again, over one year later in July, 1990, Mr Cruel would strike on yet another occasion, this time in the suburb of Canterbury, 17km (10.5 miles) west of where his last abduction had occurred. Mr Cruel struck while the parents were away from the home, entering at approximately 11:40pm and rousing 13 year old Nicola Lynas and her 15 year old sister Fiona awake. Again wielding a large knife and a handgun, Mr Cruel tied up Fiona, forced Nicola in to another room and instructed her to gather some of her clothing.
“See this here, this is a really sharp knife,” Mr Cruel had said to the two girls, “This is a real fun, it shoots real bullets.”
Mr Cruel proceeded to inform Fiona he would release her younger sister unhurt if the girls’ father paid $25,000. The man then walked Nicola out of the home, his arm around her shoulder, in a position enabling Nicola to later work out that Mr Cruel was approximately the same height as her, around 175cm (5’7”) tall. Mr Cruel stoke the family’s car to escape with Nicola in tow, parking the car 1km away.
“If you try to see it will be very dangerous for you, keep your eyes shut if you want to stay alive,” Mr Cruel had told Nicola Lynas, “You’ve got to clean yourself thoroughly. Clean your teeth thoroughly.”
A blanket had been placed over Nicola’s head, and she was shoved under the dashboard of a vehicle, as Mr Cruel drove for approximately 45 minutes before taking Nicola Lynas to the home she would be held captive in. Nicola was bound and blindfolded during her captivity, given food and drink, and referred to as ‘Missy’ by her attacker.
“I’ll drop you off at a place and [with a] change of clothes, and you have to wait for 10 minutes and then you can walk to a police station,” Mr Cruel told Nicola Lynas, “I’ll give you directions to the police station.”
Despite Nicola’s father publicly offering the $25,000 ransom Mr Cruel had previously mentioned, 50 hours after her abduction, Nicola Lynas was released in the suburb of Kew, 5km (3.1 miles) from her home in Canterbury, without Mr Cruel having accepted any ransom. Lynas was clothed and wrapped in a blanket when she was released, her eyes taped and having been instructed to sit with her head between her legs while Mr Cruel made his escape.
“When you get back the police will ask you a lot of questions,” Mr Cruel had told Nicola Lynas. In interviews with police, Nicola was able to describe the sound of low-flying airplanes over the house in which she was held captive, a detail Sharon Wills had also mentioned following her time in captivity with Mr Cruel. This led police to believe the suspect lived on a flight path to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport.
However, it has not been able to be confirmed whether this might have been yet another red herring deliberately manufactured by Mr Cruel to throw off the police investigating his crimes, as the sound both Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas could well have been replicated and played as an audio track for the young girls to hear. This theory too, however, cannot be confirmed.
Mr Cruel’s next abduction, and the last crime confirmed by police to have been committed by him, would occur this time only nine months later. April 13, 1991, broke in to the Templestowe home of the Chan family at approximately 8:40pm. Again, the parents were away from the home, entrusting their 13 year old daughter Karmein to babysit her younger siblings Karly and Karen.
Karmein Chan and her 9 year old sister Karly had exited Karmein’s bedroom, where the three sisters were watching television together, to retrieve something to eat from the home’s kitchen. There they encountered Mr Cruel, wielding a knife, who promptly forced both Karmein and Karly back in to Karmein’s bedroom. Karen, the youngest sister, overheard the encounter and hid behind the bedroom door, but was quickly spotted by the intruder in her home.
“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you, I only want your money,” he told them, “You two little ones get in the cupboard.”
Mr Cruel forced Karly and Karen in to the bedroom’s closet, pushing a bed up against the door to trap the two girls inside. The intruder held Karmein by the hair as he told the her younger sisters he would return for them. Approximately minutes went by before Karly and Karen managed to free themselves from the bedroom closet, and emerge to find their older sister missing.
Karmein Chan, barefoot and wearing only a white nightie when her sisters had been trapped in the closet, had been abducted by Mr Cruel. Typical to his previous history of crimes, the offender left behind misdirections intended to confuse investigators, spray painting “more, and more to come” and “pay back, Asian Drug Dealer” on the car belonging to Karmein’s mother, Mrs Chan.
Unlike Mr Cruel’s previous victims, Karmein Chan, who her mother Phyllis Chan told police wouldn’t be held captive without a fight, was not released alive. After seeing media reports about the abduction of Nicola Lynas, who had attended Karmein’s school, Karmein Chan had told her mother she would not go willingly.
Mr Cruel, meanwhile, had told his previous victims that his freedom was more important than their lives.
It is thought that Karmein Chan had managed to remove her blindfold, and see her abductor. Or perhaps she had managed to escape her bindings. Either way, one year after her abduction, April 9, 1992, Karmein Chan’s body was found in Thomastown, 20km (12.4 miles) northwest of where she was abducted. She was found to have been shot three times in the head, and her remains discovered in landfill.
For whatever reason, after the murder of Karmein Chan, the trail of Mr Cruel seemed to abruptly end, and the serial offender appeared to go underground.
But why? And did it end there?
Speculation and Theory: Mr Cruel never intended to kill Karmein Chan. He had not killed before that police, or the public, are aware of. But he was smart, and meticulous, taking great care to mask his identity and leave no trail for police to follow which would end with his apprehension.
Indeed, Mr Cruel had previously gone to lengths in order to throw police off his scent, placing red herrings at the scene of the crime. He would not have allowed himself to be captured, but this does not imply an original intent to kill.
Initially, I feel that Chan’s murder spooked Mr Cruel, forcing him underground. Years could have gone by, and the intelligent offender would have watched on as new investigative techniques began to be implemented by law enforcement. Forensic technology improved, and as it did, Mr Cruel’s previous modus operandi would have become obsolete. If he were to reoffend, as his compulsions would suggest he would need to, his methods would need to change. And by then, he would have made his peace with the murder he had committed. Or, if not peace, resignation.
Mr Cruel’s profile identifies him as an offender likely to reoffend, and likely compelled to reoffend. But he also identifies as an intelligent offender, one who would have known he could not continue with his previous methodology. He would have known that he needed to adapt to the improvements in forensic technology and police investigative techniques.
Unless dead, or otherwise predisposed, Mr Cruel is likely to have struck again. Police may have some idea when and where, and have not shared what they know with the media and the public. Or Mr Cruel may have been successful in throwing investigators off his trail.
Cases like Cherie Westell, who went missing in 2000, fit Mr Cruel’s crime radius. Westell, too, would seem to fit in with Mr Cruel’s victim profile. And the manner in which she appears to have been abducted? Off the street, no witnesses, no trace - unsolved. This may well have been Mr Cruel’s new modus operandi. This, however, has not been confirmed, and remains as speculative to this day.
Likewise, as of 2018, the serial offender known as Mr Cruel remains at large.